Lack of Minority Representation in Science and Engineering Endangering US Economic Health

By Jan Zverina

July 26, 2012

We need to “combat the loss of the precious few,” Richard Tapia tells attendees at XSEDE12 conference.

Rapid growth in certain segments of the nation’s population is pushing the country’s educational challenges to a crisis level, while too many of the “precious few” under-represented minority students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) disciplines are dropping out or changing majors, according to Richard Tapia, an internationally known mathematician.

“Our concern with under-representation today does not stem from moral or ethical issues,” Tapia, a professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University said during his keynote address to attendees of XSEDE12, this year’s conference of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF)  Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program in Chicago.

“It’s a simple matter of the nation’s survival,” said Tapia, also director of XSEDE’s Scholars Program, adding that such an equitable representation “is to make the country healthy and the leadership healthy.”

Tapia, a Mexican American born in Los Angeles – and the first native born Latino to win the National Medal of Science – said that under-represented minorities growing up in the United States who are interested in science, engineering, or mathematics often face what he called an “identity crisis,” while noting the extremely low number of under-represented minority (URM) graduate students in STEM departments among the nation’s top research universities.

He said those students often encounter “a sink or swim” culture, and have no support mechanisms at those leading research schools. Often they lose confidence, causing them to migrate to non-STEM majors.

“They may graduate, but not in their intended major, and that means they are lost to research science,” Tapia told XSEDE12 attendees. “We depend too much on minority-serving institutions to solve the under-representation problem, but all universities must be a part of the solution. If we URMs are to be an effective component in U.S. STEM leadership, then we must have equitable presence as students and faculty at the top research universities.”

Tapia said the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that Hispanics – currently the fastest growing segment of the nation’s population – continue to be the least educated.  He said that in 2006, Hispanics made up 14.8 percent of the U.S. population, while Asians as a group made up only 4.4 percent. Yet Hispanics made up less than 2.4 percent of the nation’s academic “pipeline” in STEM-related disciplines, while Asians, which he does not consider to be URMs in STEM, accounted for more than 17.5 percent.

“There are good jobs, but we URMs tend not to train in the areas where there are jobs,” he said, adding that “the rate at which this population is growing is outpacing the rate at which we as a nation are improving our effectiveness in educating this segment of the population.”

Affirmative Action, ‘Separate but Equal’, and “Diversity”

Tapia, in his remarks, touched on several areas that have actually hampered the success of under-represented minorities, both within and outside the academic community.

On affirmative action:

“Some progress was made, but not enough. After 40 years the nation got tired.  We don’t want reverse discrimination, and we don’t want lowering of standards. So affirmative action died; it probably should have died and we did not do a good job with it. Instead, affirmative action should have been an evaluation of the evaluation process and modifications made so that it could identify those who would succeed.”

On ‘Separate but Equal’:

“America’s solution technique to correct for denied education has been to propose separate but equal activities. Separate but equal is always separate but never equal. And separate but not equal is destroying the country and will continue to do so if we don’t change this way of doing business.”

On “Diversity” versus “Under-represented”:

“The two are not the same, but today we stay away from the politically incorrect term ‘under-representation’ and use the politically correct term ‘diversity.’  We do this with serious negative consequences for under-representation Today’s research universities are very ‘diverse’ in terms of faculty and graduate students. However representation of members from underrepresented groups is non-existent. ‘Diversity’ is a word that you can pick up and sweep the dirt underneath.”

In summarizing his remarks, Tapia said he believes the economic health of the country is based in large measure upon technical advances, but that the nation must find a way to incorporate the growing population of under-represented minorities into the mainstream of scientific and technical endeavors. In response to a student’s question following his talk, Tapia said: “Be a professional who happens to be a minority or woman. Don’t be professional minority,” adding “strong credentials will take you wherever you want to go.”

About Richard Tapia

Tapia is a mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences and is a national leader in education and outreach programs. Tapia’s current Rice positions are University Professor; Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education. His complete biography is at http://www.caam.rice.edu/~rat/brief_bio.html.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

UCSD Web-based Tool Tracking CA Wildfires Generates 1.5M Views

October 16, 2017

Tracking the wildfires raging in northern CA is an unpleasant but necessary part of guiding efforts to fight the fires and safely evacuate affected residents. One such tool – Firemap – is a web-based tool developed b Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Exascale Imperative: New Movie from HPE Makes a Compelling Case

October 13, 2017

Why is pursuing exascale computing so important? In a new video – Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Eighteen Zeros – four HPE executives, a prominent national lab HPC researcher, and HPCwire managing editor Tiffany Trader Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

OLCF’s 200 Petaflops Summit Machine Still Slated for 2018 Start-up

October 3, 2017

The Department of Energy’s planned 200 petaflops Summit computer, which is currently being installed at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, is on track t Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Program – Some Additional Clarity

September 28, 2017

The last time we left the Department of Energy’s exascale computing program in July, things were looking very positive. Both the U.S. House and Senate had pas Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This